Rachel Weisz, Condola Rashad, and Joshua Marston exclusives.
Joshua Marston, acclaimed director of Maria Full of Grace, co-wrote and directed his latest project, Complete Unknown. The film stars Rachel Weisz and Michael Shannon and tells the story of a mysterious woman who lives a life devoted to consistently reinventing her personality as new identities across the world. The film recently premiered at Metrograph in New York and will hit theaters on Friday, August 26.
Below, Weisz, actress Condola Rashad, and Marston tell us about the film’s inception and provide insights into their characters.
Your character is the first person to call out Alice’s behavior. If you hadn’t been playing Sharon and witnessed this in real life, would you have said something?
Condola Rashad: Probably not actually. I probably would’ve said it in here, and been like, ‘Oh, ok’. Because it is quite fascinating! I think part of the reason why Sharon came at her so hard, kind of what I was trying to play with – yeah she may look down on some of the things this character has done, but I also think that there was a slight envy at being able to shift so quickly. I kind of place Sharon in a world where everything is quite fixed and quite organized and everything is the way she’s planned it. So to see someone be able to shift that, one might be a little envious. And sometimes the way to deal with envy is to shut that down. Catty women are like that. I’m not like that, but some catty women are like that. They exist!
What about this movie drew you in?
Rashad: What initially drew me in was Joshua Marston. I have been a fan of Joshua Marston since Maria Full of Grace. So for me it was just kind of a dream come true to be able to work with him. I love that he comes from the theater, I love that he’s a theatergoer. And I love going in for him, the auditioning was so organic and he kind of just let me go and said, ‘what would you do?’ So that was kind of the biggest thing that drew me into it.
And what was it like working with the cast?
Rashad: Amazing. I mean, we came out of there so tightknit. Because we shot that party, that dinner scene party, we shot that over the course of seven to nine days. So it was like Groundhog Day, we just came to the same party every single day, sat at the same spot, and they were all night shoots as well. So we were delirious together. Delirious. Absolutely crazy.
Was there a specific person who inspired Alice?
Joshua Marston: Yeah there have been a bunch of people who have done this, who have changed their identity. There was a guy who was arrested at a track meet at Princeton when it was discovered that he was actually not who he said he was and he had reinvented himself three times over in an effort to become the track star that he thought he always should be. And there was a famous story of a French guy who showed up and claimed that he had disappeared. There was a family whose son had disappeared and he claimed to be that long-lost son. So there are stories out there of people who suddenly are exposed for not being who they say they are.
What about those stories made you want to make a movie like that?
Marston: I’m fascinated by the idea of going off and walking away from what you do and wiping the slate clean and becoming something else entirely. I think it’s a fantasy a lot of us have and I wanted to explore what that would really be like to do it and then to do it again and again and what would happen if you just kept doing it all your life.
Did you know right away who you wanted to play these characters?
Marston: Yeah, I think Rachel Weisz and Michael Shannon were absolutely the go-to people for these roles. Rachel is so mysterious and she has a way of presenting herself on screen that’s enigmatic. And Michael has a depth and also an ability for comedy which people don’t necessarily know about.
Was it challenging to direct a film you’d co-written?
Marston: No, not in terms of co-writing. I had wrote it with a good friend so I knew every detail of the character and the dialogue.
Alice strikes me as a more subtle character. Is it more natural and easier for you to play a character like that or a more expressive character?
Rachel Weisz: Well they’re very different. I have a movie coming out next month called Denial where I play a very not-subtle character. I play a woman called Deborah Lipstadt who is from Queens and she’s extremely expressive and there’s nothing subtle about her and that was really fun. So I’ll go both ways, subtle and expressive.
What are the challenges that come with each role?
Weisz: I mean just every film is challenging in a different way just trying to be believable and real. The Lobster was obviously a fantastical world. This is very naturalistic, I would say. And then Denial is naturalistic, but I’m playing a larger-than-life character.